Welcome to the next fifty odd years of your life! You’re going to join the serried ranks of the workers and are probably feeling a bit of anticipation. You’ll be spending a lot of time working and you want to enjoy that time. You probably also fancy generous (or at least fair) remuneration, so you’re going to have to make a success of this. Here are my top tips on how to kickstart that career.
If you’re to succeed you need to get along with people. When you smile people are much more likely to respond positively to you. Make an effort to exert your charm on everyone! Treat all those around you, including the office junior or the data entry clerk, to your most pleasant expression. Decent managers want to see that you can get along with all your colleagues and will not be impressed if they feel that while you are obsequious to them, you are quite prepared to be rude to more junior staff. It’s not the way to make friends. You never know when you might need to call a favour from a junior member of staff – if you’ve been rude to them you’re much more likely to find them very busy just when you need some help!
2. Don’t behave as if any job is beneath you.
You almost certainly didn’t do a degree in order to be able to make a good cup of tea or operate the photocopier. The bad news is that someone has to make that brew, or find the paper jam, and the job might fall to you. Just get on with it, huffing and rolling your eyes isn’t going to win you any friends. You might as well do the tasks set with a good grace. This doesn’t mean that you have to put up long term with poor quality work or be subservient. If you’re not being given anything meaningful to do, the time will come to have a conversation about that. That conversation shouldn’t be happening in the first day, week or month! If you’re feeling grumpy try to look at things from an employer’s point of view. Unless you’ve done a directly relevant vocational course you aren’t very useful in a work context when you first arrive, while you are being trained on the more exalted work take pride in making that cup of tea!
3. If you don’t know what to do – ASK!
Don’t be afraid to ask how to do things. Any employer would much rather that you clarified what you are to do than you ploughed on doing the wrong thing. Make sure that you clarify instructions given to you before you start work and get help if you get stuck. Nobody should be expecting you to be able to do everything right first time or to act on an inadequate set of instructions. If you get something wrong then own up rather then cover up. My first boss gave me some great advice very early in my career:
“If you make a mistake and come to tell me as soon as you realise, then that is my problem. If you make a mistake and try to cover up and don’t tell me about it then it’s your problem. When I do find out about it (as I surely will) I might be showing you the door!”
4. Don’t name drop.
You’re not going to make friends and forge great relationships if you name drop. If you (or your parents) are friends with the CEO of your employer company, it really isn’t wise to tell your colleagues. It’s not good to talk about all the really prestigious companies you’ve interned at either, and don’t start suggesting that the procedures, equipment, office furniture or coffee bars are better at your employer’s competitors.
5.Try to work out how the politics in the office works.
It is really useful to understand who the key people in the office are. There will probably be someone who makes sure that everything runs smoothly. You need to be friends with that person! They will probably be able to rescue you from minor crises.
It’s a good idea too to keep an eye open for a mentor, this doesn’t need to be someone with whom you have a formal relationship or even to be someone senior. It’s useful to have a critical friend to whom you can take your questions and who can be relied upon to give you honest feedback.
Otherwise, watch the office politics, sometimes derive amusement from it, but keep out of it!
6.Try to keep broadly the same office hours as everyone else.
Have you landed in an office where nobody ever goes home? Can you just pop down to the sleeping pods for a quick nap before grabbing a shower in the office? Has your clean shirt been delivered back to your desk by the office dry cleaning service? Don’t head off home at 5.00pm every day!
On the other hand if everyone you work with clears his or her desk on the dot of 5.00pm and heads to the pub you probably need to head off too. In this office there won’t be any prizes for working very long hours.
Try to get in a positive mindset and be enthusiastic about the job. Nobody likes a moaner!